Author: CIARAN MCGRATH
SMUGGLERS who used a ramshackle and dangerous yacht to bring 19 Ukrainian illegal immigrants across the North Sea to Suffolk are facing lengthy jail sentences
The Ukrainian gang was caught attempting to bring 19 fellow countrymen into the UK after they began unloading them into cars and driving them inland.
The National Crime Agency (NCA) said the lives of the migrants had been endangered by the vessel, which was inadequate to make such a voyage.
A spokesman explained that the boat, named Flamingo, had arrived in Southwold harbour on October 15, 2017, having sailed from the Netherlands.
Shortly after it landed, NCA officers and colleagues from the Border Force coastal patrol vessel alert moved in, and Yevhenii Vasylkov, 30, and Yupi Karakin, 27, were arrested, along with nine migrants who still on board.
Ten migrants had already been transferred into two vehicles for onward transportation.
They were stopped by Suffolk Police officers as they drove towards Ipswich and drivers Yuril Dzhuraniuk, 26, Mykhailo Riok, 27, were arrested.
All 19 migrants were then handed over to Immigration Enforcement.
The four men all initially denied charges of facilitating illegal migration – but on day three of their trial at Blackfriars Crown Court, Vasylkov changed his plea to guilty.
The trial continued, and yesterday 16 April Dzhuraniuk and Riok were found guilty.
All three were remanded in custody prior to sentencing on May 10.
Karakin was found not guilty, but as he entered the UK illegally he now faces being returned to Ukraine.
NCA branch operations manager Tony Luhman said: “This case demonstrates how criminal networks involved in organised immigration crime are prepared to risk the lives of the people they smuggle for the sake of profit.